Yakubowski looks to return to scoring form with Warriors

Matthew Gourlie
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The Moose Jaw Warriors added some more offence to their attack Wednesday.

Jaimen Yakubowski in action with the Seattle Thunderbirds during the 2013-14 season. Yakubowski was acquired by the Moose Jaw Warriors Wednesday along with a conditional seventh round pick in 2016 in exchange for a third round pick in 2016.

After finishing in the bottom-four of the WHL in goals scored in consecutive seasons, the Warriors added to their forward depth by acquiring 20-year-old Jaimen Yakubowski from the Seattle Thunderbirds. Seattle also sent a conditional seventh round pick in the 2016 bantam draft to the Warriors who sent a third round pick in the 2016 bantam draft back to the T-birds.

"It's exciting and I'm happy it worked out this way," said Yakobowski who is form Dalmeny, which is 25 km north of Saskatoon. "That's a big part of the trade that I like. It cuts about 18 hours off of the trip to Seattle. Getting the chance to see my family more and having them able to see more games is huge. That's going to be great."

Yakubowksi was part of the exodus from Lethbridge last season. He had one goal in 11 games with the Hurricanes before being sent home after asking to be traded.

He scored 32 goals in 2012-13 with the Hurricanes, but  had nine goals and 18 points in 47 games in a more defensive role with the Thunderbirds. He was a plus-two and had 128 penalty minutes. 

"I didn't put up the numbers I wanted to last year, but I was playing a bit of a different role as well," said Yakubowski. "Coming into my 20-year-old year I want to pick it up and play like I used to. I want to play my game and put up some good numbers."

Yakubowsi said he's happy to play whatever role the Warriors want him to play and he felt playing on a checking line a year ago helped him round of his game.

"I was on more of a shutdown line, for the most part, in Seattle. I was playing against the other team's top line which was really good. It helped me in my defensive game, playing against top lines night in and night out," said the 5-10, 201-pound left winger.

Yakubowski was one of the top scorers in midget AAA when he captained the Beardy's Blackhawks a 16-year-old and he scored 16 goals in his 17-year-old rookie season in Lethbridge. The Warriors like what he brings to the table offensively and believe he can he is a proven producer at the WHL level.

"I think he has those (offensive) capabilities. I think he proved that at 17 and 18," said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. "His production went down last year, but he missed some games due to injury. He went to a good team in Seattle who had some depth up front and took on a checking role. He didn't play the top-six minutes or get the (power play) time he had gotten in Lethbridge.

"I think he's well-rounded and I think he brings character and leadership. He plays the game hard and I think he'll be a good mentor for our young players. He'll be a good compliment to the depth and balance we want to have throughout our lineup."

The Warriors certainly have plenty of options up front. 

They have 10 forwards eligible to return from last season. In addition to Yakubowski, they also added 18-year-old Kolten Olynek from Lethbridge in a deal for Miles Warkentine this summer. They drafted Czech winger Jiri Smejkal and have high expectations for young newcomers Jayden Halbgewachs, Brett Howden and Noah Gregor.

The acquisition of Yakubowski came one day after recently-acquired 20-year-old defenceman Cole Wedman decided to go to university this fall.

The decision to add another overage forward was a vote of confidence for the Warriors young defence which features 19-year-olds Austin Adam and Spenser Jensen as its most senior members.

"When you're talking about the back end, we added a guy (Adam) that is big and gives us some depth. Adam is a stay-at-home guy who hopefully gives us what we were potentially getting from Wedman. We added some experience there," said Millar is regards to Adam who spent the past three years in Everett.

The Warriors do have six defencemen with WHL experience on their roster.

"We have expectations in terms of the step we expect (Alexey) Sleptsov, (Dallas) Valentine and (Reid) Zalitch to take as 18-year-olds," said Millar. "You couple that with some depth and some steadiness and some size in the two 19-year-olds in Adam and Jensen. We like our young guys. We like Tyler Brown. We like Ryan Gardiner. We like the potential of Zinis. 

"We felt that based on where we were at with those guys and Yakubowski's availability we could take a run at a guy we have liked for a long time."

The Warriors will have four 20-year-olds at training camp — Yakubowski, Scott Cooke, Tanner Eberle and Jack Rodewald — and can only keep three.

Seattle had 10 1994-born players in their lineup during the last year's playoffs. Some of those players weren't going to return, but they still have a bevy of potential 20-year-olds to sort through before the season starts.

"(Seattle) had six or seven at least that were going to contend for spots, so it was going to be quite the training camp if I had gone there as well," said Yakubowski.

His 32-goal season earned Yakubowski an invite to Detroit's development camp last summer. He is hoping a strong final season will earn him another look at the pro level.

"Being my last year in junior, I want to make a statement and hopefully catch the eye of some pro teams," he said.

Organizations: Thunderbirds

Geographic location: Seattle, Lethbridge, Saskatoon Everett Dallas Detroit

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